Friday, May 2, 2008

Young and Innocent

Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood , andAnthony Armstrong, from a novel by Josephine Tey
Starring Derreck de Marney, Nova Pilbeam, Edward Rigby.

I'm a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock, so when I saw a DVD set at Wal-Mart of most of his early British films -- for $5 -- I snapped it up.  With movies like The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Sabotage, it was a steal, and if any of the other films were worthwhile, it would be gravy.

I've already written about The Skin Game, but there are other gems on it.  One of the most fascinating of these was Young and Innocent.

Hitchcock is famous for his "running man" films, where an innocent man is suspected of a crime and has to clear his name.  The Thirty-Nine Steps made his reputation, and he reached perfection of the theme in North by Northwest, but on the way there were others.  I've written about Saboteur before, but Young and Innocent was new to me -- and quite a good film.

Robert Tisdale (Derrect de Marney) discovers a dead woman washed up on the beach, strangled by the belt of a raincoat. When he goes to get help, others discover the body, and notice him running away.  He is arrested -- he knew the woman and stood to benefit from her will. Knowing he has little chance of the court system, he makes a break, using Erica Burgoyne's (Nova Pilbeam) car. Erica, who is the daughter of the of the local chief constable, wants to take Tisdale back to jail, but he manages to convince her that he is innocent and needs to find his old raincoat -- mysteriously stolen -- and produce the the belt to prove his innocence. 

Hitchcock's cameo Hitchcock gives this theme his full attention.  There are plenty of great scenes, sharp dialog, and bravura direction. The shot where Hitchcock reveals the murderer is justly famous, a long slow camera movement across a ballroom until it goes to close-up on the man's face.

The leads are quite attractive. Most of their work doesn't seem to have traveled to the US, but both handle their roles with a lot of charm.  Nova Pilbeam is especially good in showing the conflicts she has -- she wants to trust Tisdale, but, as a policeman's daughter, knows where her duty lies.

It's always nice to see more of what you love about a director. Young and Innocent is a real treat for Hitchcock fans.

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